The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 26 Apr 2001
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About the Author
Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was the leading exponent of Gothic fiction. During her lifetime she published five novels including A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797), as well as a collection of European travel writings. Her novels were immensely popular and much imitated.
Jacqueline Howard is Co-ordinator of English and Languages at St. Mary's College in Adelaide, South Australia, and author of 'Reading Gothic Fiction: A Bakhtinian Approach'.
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Top Customer Reviews
Thanks to Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey this particular book has become extremely well known, despite the fact that lots of people haven't read it. If this is your first time reading this then I should caution you, this is a loose baggy affair and in today's world this would probably be 'tightened' up, although in the case of this it would take something away from this, possibly some of the charm. Quite a few people do describe this as 200 pages of excitement, with 500 pages of boredom, and this does have a lot of descriptive writing, as well as poetry in it. This is a gothic romance, but it is also much more than that, it contains mystery and adventure, just for starters.
There are a lot of cliff hangers and 'hooks' here that will hopefully keep you interested and wanting to read more. Ann Radcliffe's husband was scared to read this alone, but I don't think that this would be the case these days as it is quite tame. If you are into or just getting into original gothic literature, then Radcliffe's novels are a must read.
By 21st century standards of horror, this story is tame and childish, but if you're like me and don't appreciate the excesses of modern horror and supernatural/occult things, but just enjoy a good read, you'll find this more to your taste. Yeah, sure there are some unbelievable parts, (like Emily's being able to compose whole sonnets on the spot, for one), but fiction like this is not really meant to be convincing. Mrs Radcliffe wrote to entertain the masses, and that's what she achieves. Yes, the desciptions can be a bit tedious at times, but if you read quickly as most of us do when we're 'in to' a novel, they soon pass and you get on with the story.
I esp. liked the fact that all the mysteries are explained in the end which saves you from having to go through the dissatisfying experience of wanting to know exactly what happened back there when 'x' did 'y' and so on, but never being told. (I sometimes wonder if some authors couldn't think of anything convincing with which to tie up their loose ends!!)
It is set in France and Italy during the late sixteenth century, although it was published in 1794, nearly two hundred years after the events described.
The heroine, Emily St. Aubert, is brought up in Gascony by loving parents, landed gentry whose fortunes are in decline but who bring her up to appreciate life's true values. Now, in 1584 according to chapter 10, she is in her late teens and (of course) devastatingly beautiful, so she is now marriageable material. Her mother dies of an illness and Emily and her father become especially close; he is her guide, protector and teacher. His own health is poor and they go on a holiday, journeying through the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean, near Roussillon. The stunning, wild landscape is powerfully described. For a sick man, it does seem a rigorous and dangerous journey to have undertaken! There are storms, rugged roads, searches at night for accommodation in remote regions and suspected ghosts and supernatural happenings. They meet peasants who are usually singing and dancing and eating fruit (everyone seems to subsist on fruit) and generally enjoying a bucolic paradise. The travellers meet Valancourt, a handsome man who shares their taste for nature, music and thought. Emily and Valancourt fall in love.
Unsurprisingly, considering the rigours of the journey, Emily's father dies.Read more ›
Those who like their stories 'lean and mean' will find this a lot to digest at almost seven hundred pages, and the pace is often ponderous, with the early parts of the book largely a travelogue through 16th century France and Italy. Here there is a lot of repetition about the sublimity and awfulness (as in inspiring awe) of nature. The poems, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the book, are best skipped.
But despite these criticisms, this is a hugely entertaining book. Radcliffe's descriptions provide wonderful atmosphere, producing an almost dreamlike feel whether in a gloomy castle or on a summer walk. The characters are strongly defined, and their emotions palpable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Typical of the era, this is longwinded and the plot doesn't hang together well but if you like (early) Victorian scenes and plenty of secret doors and spooky goings on, then this... Read morePublished 7 days ago by glynn_anderson
This is one of the top 10 books to read. It is truly fantastic, even Jane Austin read this book so what more can I say. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Jayne 393
I tried to persevere .... not for me I'm afraid. Unlike Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey I don't do Gothic!!!Published 12 months ago by Sarah Gamp
This book is much too 'wordy' for most modern tastes, but it is worth persevering. It is a mixture of a Gothic horror story, an 18th century travelogue and some exquisite passages... Read morePublished 14 months ago by BookloverG